Moving Global Mental Health “Outside Our Heads”

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This week, MIA Radio presents the fourth in a series of interviews on the topic of the global “mental health” movement.” This series is being developed through a UMASS Boston initiative supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundation. The interviews are being led by UMASS PhD students who also comprise the Mad in America research news team.

Over the past three weeks, Mad in America have published interviews with many of the leading voices in this debate.

Immediately following the release of the report and the beginning of the Summit, on World Mental Health Day, psychiatric epidemiologist, Dr. Melissa Raven, was on the MIA podcast. She questioned the evidence base of the movement, pointing to statistical issues in the prevalence rates of mental disorders internationally, and called for a focus on addressing barriers to health rather than on individualized treatment.

Mental health service-user activists, Jhilmil Breckinridge, of the Bhor Foundation in India, and Dr. Bhargavi Davar, of Transforming Communities for Inclusion (TCI) Asia Pacific were also on the podcast. Each discussed the lack of involvement of service-user and disability rights groups in the UK Summit and Lancet report and laid out alternative frameworks for addressing distress in ways that are sensitive to culture and social context.

Next, Dr. China Mills, a critical psychologist and author of Decolonizing Global Mental Health, spoke to my colleague, Zenobia Morrill, about her experience attending the UK summit and the lack of attention that has been given to the ways in which austerity policies in Britain have contributed to the increased demand for mental health interventions.

You can find these earlier interviews at the links below:

10/10/18 – Interview with Dr. Melissa Raven, psychiatric epidemiologist – The Global ‘Mental Health’ Movement – Cause For Concern

10/20/18 – Interviews with mental health service-user/psychosocial disability rights activists Jhilmil Breckenridge and Dr. Bhargavi Davar – Global Mental Health: An Old System Wearing New Clothes

10/24/18 – Interview by MIA research news editor Zenobia Morrill with Dr. China Mills, a critical psychologist and prominent critic of the global mental health movement – Coloniality, Austerity, and Global Mental Health

Today, Mad in America’s News Editor Justin Karter interviews Dr. Derek Summerfield.

Dr. Summerfield is an honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, former Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford and consultant at Oxfam. He was born in South Africa and trained in medicine and psychiatry at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. Dr. Summerfield has published hundreds of articles in medicine and social science and has contributed widely to understanding the impact of war-related trauma and torture on people around the world. He has been an outspoken critic of the global mental health movement for several years, criticizing the medicalization of trauma through PTSD, the exaggerated prevalence rates in the epidemiological data, and the lack of awareness of the different cultural experiences and understandings of distress.

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MIA-UMB News Editor: Justin Karter is a writer, researcher and community organizer with graduate degrees in both journalism and community psychology. He is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at UMass Boston, an active member of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, and is currently working on several scholarly projects at the intersection of psychology, social theory, and political philosophy.

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